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Champions League wrap: United top group but go down to Cluj

There were also wins for Bayern Munich, Juventus, Valencia, and Galatasaray.

Luis Alberto scores.
Luis Alberto scores.
Image: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

LUIS ALBERTO SCORED the only goal as Cluj secured a 1-0 win over Manchester United but were still eliminated from the Champions League here on Wednesday.

Alberto put the Romanian champions ahead just before the hour but with Galatasary coming from behind to win 2-1 in Braga, Cluj were eliminated on the head to head ruling.

Paulo Sergio’s side, who must have believed a victory at Old Trafford would take them to the next stage, will now feature in the Europa League in the new year.

United were through even before the 1-0 defeat at Galatasary last month and progress as group winners.

But despite making 10 changes ahead of the Manchester derby with City on Sunday, Alex Ferguson will still be frustrated at his team’s second successive European defeat.

It was his team’s first home loss since a 1-0 defeat to Besiktas in November 2009.
Galatasaray booked their place in the knockout stages alongside Untied with a 2-1 win at Braga.

The Turkish champions appeared to be heading out of the competition when Mossoro gave their Portuguese opponents a fully deserved lead at Estadio AXA shortly before the half-hour mark.

The situation worsened for Galatasaray when qualification rivals Cluj went a goal up on table-toppers Manchester United, but Burak Yilmaz and substitute Aydin Yilmaz scored second-half goals to see Fatih Terim’s men through in dramatic fashion.
Bayern Munich sealed top spot in Group F with a 4-1 victory over BATE Borisov at the Allianz Arena.

Goals from Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller, Xherdan Shaqiri and David Alaba gave the Bavarians revenge for their defeat in Belarus in October, despite Jerome Boateng seeing red just five minutes into the second half.

Bayern began the game in complete control and could have been ahead before their opponents had even had a kick on two minutes, but Bastian Schweinsteiger scuffed his shot from the edge of box safely into the hands of Andrey Gorbunov in the BATE goal.

The hosts took the lead when Shaqiri evaded Denis Polyakov’s challenge on the left before picking out Gomez for a tap-in.

Toni Kroos sparkled only intermittently but almost doubled the lead five minutes before the break, turning to strike a fierce shot from the edge of the box that was well stopped by Gorbunov.

The game looked like evening out five minutes into the second half when Boateng was shown a straight red card for a needless two-footed tackle on Vitali Rodionov.

But just as it looked like the visitors were going to show more ambition and really take the game to the 10 men, a deep free kick was flicked on by Schweinsteiger for Mueller to cushion his volley past Gorbunov from close range.

Shaqiri made it three shortly after the hour mark, heading home from six yards after a fine cross from Gomez on the left.

Denis Polyakov’s night was complete with 20 minutes remaining when he was dismissed following a second booking for simulation following a ludicrous attempt to win a penalty for his side.

Alaba rounded off Bayern’s scoring with his first ever Champions League goal, controlling well before coolly volleying fellow substitute Franck Ribery’s corner past Gorbunov from 18 yards out.

Egor Filippenko then tucked his neat finish inside Manuel Neuer’s post from the edge of the box with two minutes remaining, but it was nothing more than a consolation.

The victory ensured Bayern ended the group stage on a high with their 16th victory in their last 17 home Champions League ties.

The Bayern players celebrate: Credit: Kerstin Joensson/AP/Press Association Images

Despite finishing equal on points with Bayern after a 1-0 win at Lille, Valencia progress to the knockout stages from second place by virtue of a weaker head-to-head record against the German giants.

The La Liga outfit ground out the victory at Grande Stade Lille Metropole courtesy of Jonas’ first-half penalty, leaving Lille with just three points to show from a miserable campaign.

The win ensures that coach Ernesto Valverde’s reign at Valencia starts on a bright note after the club parted ways with Mauricio Pellegrino last week.

Juventus clinched top spot in Group E with a 1-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk, while defending champions Chelsea bowed out despite winning 6-1.

Needing only a point to qualify for the Champions League round of 16, an own goal from Olexandr Kucher shortly before the hour mark sent the Bianconeri to victory, leapfrogging the Ukrainians, who were forced to settle for second place, with third placed Chelsea dropping into the Europa League despite their victory over FC Nordsjaelland.

Celtic advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League, while Lionel Messi was injured in Barcelona’s 0-0 draw against Benfica.
The Portuguese side paid the price for wasting an abundance of chances that could have seen them take a memorable three points against a largely second-string Barca team.

In a largely uninspiring game, Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, who began on the bench, endured a nightmare as he left the field with a knee injury.

After a rather tame 79th-minute free kick he was denied the fabled 85th goal following a great recovery save from Artur at the death, though he seemed to do himself some damage in attempting to find the net as he was stretchered off clutching his knee.

For Benfica the point was not enough to book their spot in the next round as they finished third, two points adrift of Celtic, while Barcelona finished on top of the pile.

- © AFP, 2012

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